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Dinner is served: What’s new in health care dining

Ten years ago, it would have been practically unheard of to write or read a restaurant review of a hospital cafeteria in the newspaper or online. Today, however, it’s a different story. Review sites like Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com allow users to rate and review practically any place that serves food. What’s more, social media sites and blogs give everyone who comes in contact with your health care organization’s cafeteria a tool to become a raving fan or a ranting critic.While your goal as a health care organization is certainly not a culinary one, negative reviews can reflect poorly on your organization. In some cases, negative reviews could even sway those patients with a choice in care to make alternative arrangements. What’s more, a commitment to quality care encompasses every touch point a patient has with your organization, including the care put into serving meals to patients and their families.

Take a look at these tips from other health care organizations on how to improve the dining experience at your hospital, clinic or nursing home today:

  • Add some ambience
    Wanting to avoid the boring mess hall with white walls and bland food stereotype that many hospital cafeterias have come to define, the Kurth Cottage Café inside Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey has jazzed things up a bit. Featuring decidedly retro vibe, the café boasts blue gingham curtains, grandmotherly waitresses and healthy diner-style food.Increasingly, hospitals everywhere are following the same cue—trading out the cafeteria for an actual restaurant setting within the health care organization. Menus are still compiled by staff dieticians and nutritionists, but the atmosphere is more welcoming. Some, like one of the cafeterias at Evergreen Retirement Community in Oshkosh, Wisc., even have hosts/hostesses and friendly wait staff in place of buffets and self-service.

Try swapping out paper cups for ceramic mugs, offering butter mints with every receipt or using branded napkins to mimic the feel of a restaurant environment.

  • Incorporate an eye for design
    When the Los Angeles Medical Center decided to renovate its cafeteria earlier this year, it called in an architect and a design firm, both known for innovative and practical solutions that are executed with modern and sleek designs.Webb Design, in collaboration with Taylor Architects, created a food service facility, and interior design plans and specifications for the development of the project and the results are pretty amazing—the floor plan is open, the room is well-lit, and the textures and surfaces are like those you’d find in an upscale modern home.The Café is said to have been designed to present an inviting-yet-open feeling while being easy to clean. Slip-resistant floors make the area safe and an open space design allows for easy reaching and cleaning of equipment.

Consider incorporating colorful banners and signage to aid in the flow of the cafeteria layout and design or to show menus in an aesthetically pleasing way.

  • Offer organic and healthier food options
    According to a recent University of California – Davis report, “Serving better food advances hospitals’ missions to promote and protect health, especially in light of widespread, chronic nutrition-related illness such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”Linda Hansen, director of nutrition services at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Calif., has taken this information and run with it. “My goal in life,” said Hansen, a 29-year hospital food service veteran, “is to have hospital food not even resemble hospital food.”Memorial, a 278-bed hospital that serves as a regional trauma center, launched a “Balanced Menus” program two years ago, intent on injecting local, sustainably produced meat, dairy and produce into a institutional food service system. The result? Healthy food that’s palatable and environmentally sustainable, not to mention a menu that would rival the chicest of restaurants, featuring free-range chicken, fresh spinach and more.

Communicate your organization’s dedication to healthy food choices while adding to the dining experience—and keep these nutrition-themed coloring books on hand for young diners. Health care dining doesn’t have to be bland—spice things up today in order to make your organization’s meal service part of the customer experience that everyone raves about.


“Los Angeles Medical Center Cafeteria Gets Rejuvenated.”
Sustainable Healthcare & Hospital Development Magazine. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.

Kovner, Guy. “This Is Hospital Food? | PressDemocrat.com.” Santa Rosa News, Weather, Sports and Business | PressDemocrat.com | The Press Democrat. 19 June 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.

 

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